/// Independent Cable Networks Don’t Agree on Comcast-TWC Merger
As Comcast prepares to add millions more subscribers to its already vast base, there's one group particularly vulnerable to the newest and biggest kid on the block: independent cable networks. These folks don't have the leverage of channels owned by a Viacom or an ABC-Disney—they have to negotiate on their own individual merits, rather than as a value-add (or an additional burden, depending on whether the network or the MSO is talking) to the two or three must-have networks in a portfolio. Eric Sherman, CEO of health and lifestyle network Veria Living, is unimpressed with the merger, which will give Comcast nearly a one-third share of the 100 million subscriber cable market. “Over our history, consolidation hasn't been beneficial, and I can't imagine more consolidation providing new opportunities,” Sherman told Adweek. “I think there needs to be an aggressive approach from the government in putting conditions on this merger. If you're going to give someone so much power in the marketplace, you have to make sure it's fair.” Sherman points to the recent court victory effectively jeopardizing net neutrality laws and the ease of Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal as evidence that cable and satellite operators are trying to collude against networks and ultimately, consumers. “The Comcast-NBC merger [was going to provide] more opportunity for minorities, supposedly,” he said. “That doesn't appear to have happened.” Comcast's FCC-mandated minority-owned networks are mostly underdistributed outside Comcast and barely programmed, though El Rey in particular is seeking to break out with leg up from Univision, ironically a prime competitor of Comcast's own Telemundo. Aspire airs reruns of The Bill Cosby Show, The Flip Wilson Show, and Julia four times a day each. For Sherman, the new deal will seem like another win for the big guy over the little guy unless there's more stringent regulation. “We're going to explore our options with the FCC, with the DoJ, with other government groups so that consolidation doesn't stop diversity in the industry and our growth specifically,” he said.